Friday, July 15, 2016

What It Means To Be a Promising Poet

Hello and Happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit Katie at The Logonauts for Roundup.

Big thanks to all who sent me notes in relation to the lovely news that I won the 2016 ILA-Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award. !! I was traveling with Paul in Oregon when the announcement came, with spotty internet, and I'm not on Facebook... so my reaction has been a bit delayed. Please forgive me if you reached out and didn't get a response. Thank you for sharing this with me!

Here's the nutshell version, from the website:

The International Literacy Association (ILA) Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award is a US$500 award given every three years to a promising new poet of children's poetry (for children and young adults up to grade 12) who has published no more than two books of children's poetry. 

The book that was under consideration was my debut DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST: And Other Poems from the Water Hole. Isn't that lovely?! I'm so grateful to the one and only LBH for all the ways he supports poetry and poets, and to ILA and specifically to the committee headed up by Laura Apol.

I really can't think of a better way to be a poet than to be "promising." It makes me think of the wonderful Rilke poem I keep at my desk:


If the angel
deigns to come
it will be because
you have convinced
her, not by tears
but by your humble
resolve to be always
beginning; to be
a beginner.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

I want to always write as a beginner, to see the world with fresh eyes, to stumble through syllables and stanzas. That's where the joy is, truly -- not in the polish, but in the polishing. In that way, each poem is a promise, and each moment we struggle with words holds promise -- when we try, when we write, we are all promising poets.

And now, it is my pleasure to share with you the first poem I've received in the Summer Poem Swap. It comes from Tabatha, the Swap Queen herself, and it is so, so special because it is so, so personal. Read on.

Cello Bow
for Irene
by Tabatha Yeatts

In your wildgraced
wood, forests
of wings
leaves. Low
notes of
winter’s slow
stirring sap
and dark
are held
in your
glow. Come
closer, closer.
Bridge the
past and air.
Find your
song in taut,
tender strings.

For those of you who don't know, I am a new-ish cello student. I started playing about a year and a half ago, and it's a challenge, and I love it. Read more about my cello adventure here. So you can see why I love this poem so much. Plus, how 'bout those jammedtogether words like "wildgraced" and "windchurned" and "lovepolished" ?? LOVE. Thank you, Tabatha!

And thanks to all of you for reading. May we all find our songs. xo


  1. Oh, that poem you received from Tabatha is delightful! Love the phrase - winter's slow stirring sap. I could hear the words as if they were being played on your cello note by note.
    "The joy is ... in the polishing ...and each moment we struggle with words holds promise." Thanks for these encouraging words. And congrats on the award!

  2. Oh, a cellist and a wonderful poem from Tabatha. I have a principal cellist friend so am partial to both the sound and cellists. I also love your award. How totally wonderful on so many levels. I also love the Rilke poem you shared; always a beginner, always new, wide-open to wonder and possibility and life. So happy for you and to know you, Irene. Just wonderful. Bright news so needed today.
    Janet F.

  3. First, a huge bouquet of congratulations on the PROMISING award. What an honor, indeed.

    Second, don't dismay that your PF peeps have left you hanging here -- this is the week of the 15th and the roundup is at A Year of Reading! You're in now, so the love should start trickling in any minute! (How could a person on Cloud Nine be expected to keep track of the date?) :-)

    Lastly, what a lovely, lovely gift of a poem from Tabatha! Perfection.

  4. So perfect to keep "Gratefulness" at your desk, Irene. Congratulations on the well-deserved honor!

  5. Congratulations, Irene! I am thrilled for you! This post is a treasure. It is so full of beautiful words (yes, I was noticing Tabatha's "jammedtogether" words) and sage advice. I will hold on to this: "...each moment we struggle with words holds promise..." Thank you for always being such an inspiration!

  6. Irene, dear Irene--glad you got the tap on your shoulder of encouragement. Of course you did! And Tabatha's poem is stunning. *swoon*

  7. That LBH is a wise one, indeed (if he was the selector?) Brava for
    receiving this award. I love Dear Wandering Wildebeest &...

    Appreciations for these lovely words of Tabatha about cello lessons & life.

    And for sharing the Rilke poem & your always encouraging words.


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